The whole of Oxfordshire will be placed under Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions after the end of the national lockdown next week, the Government has announced.

Under the tougher tier system, Oxford will be placed under ‘High Alert’ until at least 16 December, when the measures will be reviewed.

The Government’s website crashed at midday as new details were released about the tiers that will be introduced across the country from Wednesday. Most areas of the UK will be placed under ‘High Alert’ or ‘Very High Alert’ (Tier 3).

Tier 2 rules will be introduced in “areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of infections”, the Government has said.

The new measures will mean that, despite the end of national restrictions after 4 weeks, people living in Oxfordshire will still not be able to socialise indoors with people outside of their household or support bubble.

However, the ‘rule of six’ will apply for meeting people outdoors, and businesses and venues will be allowed to reopen “in a COVID-Secure manner”. Pubs and bars will remain closed unless “operating as restaurants” and only with table service. Hospitality will have to close at 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.

In a statement on the Council’s website, Leader of Oxford City Council Cllr Susan Brown said that the new rules will restore “a bit more normality and social life” but advised local residents to “continue to take sensible precautions and don’t break the rules. What we each do now will make a real difference to keeping safe over the Christmas break”.

Other areas of the UK joining Oxfordshire in Tier 2 include all 32 boroughs of London, Liverpool and much of the South East. Areas under the toughest restrictions in Tier 3 include much of the North West and North East, Birmingham, the Midlands, Kent and Bristol. The only areas of the UK in Tier 1 (Medium Alert) will be the Isle of Wight, the South West, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Tiered restrictions are expected be relaxed across the country between 23 and 27 December, allowing up to 3 households to form a ‘bubble’ over the Christmas period.

You can find out which tier your home area will be placed under on the Government’s website, as well as the full set of rules for each tier.

The news comes as UK universities prepare for students’ departure at the end of term, with the Government looking to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 from returning students to families and friends at home. At Oxford University, students will be offered rapid Lateral Flow Tests in Colleges, to be taken twice in the week leading up to their departure.

In the 7 days to Friday 20 November, there were 40 new cases of coronavirus at the University, down from 126 cases the previous week and 212 cases in the final week of October.

Last Friday, there had been a total of 1,020 cases of COVID-19 at the University since late August. Across Oxfordshire, there were 99 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday with no new deaths reported.

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